Soil intake may be the most prominent source of environmental contaminants for free range and organic hens, but there are no quantitative data concerning soil intake by domestic hens. Consumption of soil of 14¿32 g a day can be estimated from literature, but such a dilution of nutrient intake seems incompatible with high productivity. In this study laying hens were fed pelleted diets with 0%, 10%, 20%, 25% and 30% of sand addition to determine its effect on productivity. Feed intake, feed and nutrient (feed minus sand) conversion ratio, egg production, egg weight and body weight gain were measured over a 4-week period. Acid insoluble ash concentration in the faeces was measured to determine the accuracy of estimating the soil ingestion by the soil-ingestion equation for wildlife as a way to determine soil ingestion of free range and organic hens under practical circumstances. The hens were able to compensate the dilution of the diet with 20%, 25% and 30% of sand by increasing their feed intake. Feed intake increased significantly and feed to egg conversion ratio decreased significantly with increasing sand levels in the diet. The nutrient to egg conversion ratio of the diet without sand tended to be worse than for the diets with sand, presumably due to the total absence of coarse material in the diet. There were no differences in egg production and egg weight between hens fed the different diets but body weight gain was significantly lower for the hens fed the diets with 20%, 25% and 30% of sand. Estimation of sand ingestion was done by the soil-ingestion equation for wildlife. Provided that the actual dry matter digestibility coefficient of the nutrient part of the diet is taken into account, estimating the soil ingestion according to the soil-ingestion equation for wildlife seems an appropriate way to determine soil ingestion for free range and organic hens under practical circumstances.
- whole barley
van der Meulen, J., Kwakernaak, C., & Kan, C. A. (2008). Sand intake by laying hens and its effect on egg production parameters. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, 92(4), 426-431. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1439-0396.2007.00732.x